I have been nestled inside the winter for months, it seems. It has been so cold and dark. Even today, at the end of April, spring struggles to gain a grip, the wind and rain overtaking its warm and promising breezes, painting the hilltops white, again, pouring pellets of icy hail onto the ground. This weekend, there are predictions of frost.
Each day, I walk past the newly budding lilacs on my way to the train station, and I kiss them, and tell them to be strong, and reach deep, and find warmth. I so hope the cold will not kill them before they flower.
I have sat inside an inner winter, too. Some days, I am able to look around, and revel in the rainbow coloured tulips and the deep blues and violets of the evening sky. But other days, I cannot reach deep enough to overcome the cold, and the world feels frozen, the wind biting at my fingertips.
I am writing this post a few days early, as, on Friday, I am travelling to Spain, to spend a week on a farm animal sanctuary called Pig Village, where I will bask in the sun, and rub pigs' bellies, and feed the chickens and donkeys that roam the fields, there, free to live out their lives without fear of slaughter. My heart needs me to be with animals, to work, and to sweat. Perhaps I can store the heat in my bones to keep me warm through the unsettled days of this English spring.
I am treading slowly toward the anniversary of my husband's death. Last night I remembered how I left him, on the 2nd of May, at the Manchester Airport, to come to the US to visit my son. I left him. I went off to New York, to watch my son graduate from University, to see his final, solo performance, to visit friends and hike gorges and savour the beauty of the waterfalls. All the while, my husband was here, in England, on his own.
And the countdown had begun.
17 days, we were apart. We spoke on FaceTime, but I was distracted. I knew we would be together very soon. I was in my own little world. It was the price he paid, I told myself, for marrying an ex-pat. I needed to visit folks in America, and we could not afford for both of us to travel there, each year. We'd work out ways to minimise this stress, I thought. We'd discuss it upon my return.
Three weeks after I came back to my husband, he was dead.
How could I do it? How could I have left him, alone? Why didn't I pay more attention to him, when we spoke? How could I not somehow know that we were in the countdown of his life?
And how do I learn to forgive myself for something I could not possibly have predicted? How long will I pour over the details of our last days together, wishing it had been other than it was? When will I see that I can't change what happened? How do I let this go?
Oh. It is so easy to crawl back into the depths of winter. The colours of my life were just beginning to emerge. Not brilliant colours, not bright. No fiery reds and oranges with their passion for living. Just soft and flowing pastel hues. But colour, nonetheless. Light and hope against the darkness.
Yet, the weather has turned cold, again. I feel a freeze coming. My purple lilac buds might not make it. My colours may just fade away, carried along on the wind of these memories.
Be strong, I must tell myself. Reach deep. Find warmth.